Whole30 – An Honest Review

I decided to do a review of the Whole30 diet this week, as I just finished it this weekend. Slightly off-topic, I know, but I received a few requests for it and thought other people might be interested in hearing someone’s personal experience with it.

For some background, the Whole30 diet plan eliminates dairy, grains, alcohol, legumes, and all added sugars from your diet. What does that leave you with? Basically just meat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. They also suggest that you don’t try to make compliant food in the form of a cheat food – i.e. gluten free pancakes or veggie chips, so you can retrain your brain into not craving these things. However, you can eat as much of the “allowed” foods as you want with no restrictions! (But for full effect, they suggest you limit fruits and nuts.)

Here are some pictures of a few of the recipes I made:

 

Disclaimers

I did the vegetarian version of the Whole30 diet, which made it significantly more challenging, especially since I stuck to the no legumes rule. I had protein mainly through eggs, nuts/nut butter, and various greens. I also only technically did a Whole24 (I completed 24 days), because I thought I had completed the goals I set out to finish in that time, and it was starting to affect my mental state.

My goals were not in line with the true nature of the program. I started Whole30 to lose weight (which they specifically advise against) along with finding out more of my food intolerances. I had no intentions of eating this way forever – that is just impractical. I think people who adhere to the strict guidelines are depriving themselves of the joy of food in life. You can tell by how grumpy the moderators are who respond to simple questions on the Whole30 forums. I ate compliant pancakes. I ate compliant potato chips as a snack. The mental toll of not eating food you enjoy is not worth it, especially when you’re still getting the physical benefits of the program.

The Positives

I lost a little more than 10 pounds in 3 weeks, or 24 days. But Whole30 focuses most on non-scale victories. Unfortunately I didn’t see as many of these as I thought I would, but I appreciated the ones I did. My stomach and digestion issues went away almost completely, which was a miracle. I learned how to cook more things. I gained a lot of new recipes to add to my repertoire, including: pesto spaghetti squash, butternut squash soup, veggie korma, and mushroom gravy (normally over biscuits, but over roasted potatoes to make it Whole30). I also found a new food intolerance in cashews.

At first I didn’t think I was sleeping better, but 2 nights after I stopped eating clean, I started waking up several times throughout the night, and have continued to have restless sleep. I noticed that during my first two meals post-Whole30 with real carbs, I felt immediately tired while eating. I also became acutely aware of my post-Whole30 sugar crashes in the morning a couple hours after breakfast. 

The Negatives

I realized I despise cauliflower – not really a new observation but it was definitely confirmed. I hit the snooze button more often on Whole30 than I normally would, and slept late on weekends. I think the thought of not getting up and going to brunch like normal, but instead having the same thing I ate for breakfast all week was too depressing.

For the first two weeks on the diet I experienced terrible brain fog, as my body didn’t have simple carbs to use for energy anymore. At the end of the second week I hardly had energy at all, but I made sure to eat more potatoes after that to keep my body energized.

The carb cravings never really went away. I perhaps didn’t feel like I NEEDED them, but your brain doesn’t ever forget how good a pizza tastes. And there was also SO. MUCH. FOOD PREP. I’ve never made so much food from scratch before – it’s exhausting.

I would not recommend this diet to the following:

Those with previous eating disorders

Honestly, any restrictive diet program is not really meant for someone recovering from an eating disorder. I’ve struggled with my relationship with food my entire life. I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder, but I had habits that were on that path. Since then I’ve tried to heal that relationship by tossing out the scale, and eating what I want, but in moderation. I thought this program would be okay, since it was healthy eating, getting more in tune with your body, and no counting of calories or macros. But by the end the thought of “what if I didn’t lose weight and all of this was for nothing” was too much to bear, and I realized it would be unhealthy for my mind to continue.

Vegetarians

The rules are so needlessly strict, by the end of week two I barely had any energy to even stand up for long amounts of time, which didn’t seem right. Legumes like lentils are perfectly healthy and fine sources of nutrition for a plant based diet. If you’re looking for a diet like this, I’d recommend looking into vegetarian Keto before doing a version of Whole30.

I WOULD recommend this diet to someone with constant digestion issues, or someone who needs to kick a bad sugar habit, like eating junk food all the time or drinking sodas all day. It teaches you how your body can feel if you treat it right.

***

All things considered, I personally won’t be doing this diet again anytime soon. I think it would be easier if I wasn’t vegetarian, because I had to get so creative with the meal making. I think the Whole30 ideology combined with the harsh restrictions doesn’t make this a very accessible diet plan. I was only able to get as far as I did with the help of my amazing partner who had completed several (non-vegetarian) Whole30 rounds before.

If you’ve done Whole30 or a similar diet, I’d love to know what you think!

 

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